Every dog owner knows that face. That sad, adorable, convincing, and slightly threatening face. Yes, it’s the face of your dog when you are about to leave home without him or her to embark on some activity that will obviously be fun.
“How dare you?” your pooch seems to be saying. ”I see that you are wearing your bike helmet and not our walking shoes. I am simply devastated. I will eat the trash as soon as you leave.” Well, that is what my dog often seems to be saying, in any case.
Many bike commuters are lucky enough to work in dog-friendly workplaces; it’s getting the dog to work that presents a challenge. Fortunately, a number of companies — including those that specialize primarily in bikes, as well as those that specialize in pets — are making it easier for you to bring your dog (or other small mammal) when you head out for a ride. Among the pet-focused companies is Sleepypod, who recently came out with the Sidekick, which is a bike rack that can accommodate both the Sleepypod Air and Atom pet carriers.
My pup tips the scales at about 75 lbs, so he’s the perfect candidate for a bike dog trailer, like the Burley Tailwagon or Croozer Dog Trailer. But I must admit that a small part of me is just itching to cruise around town with a small dog on my handlebars.
Well, I’m in luck. Meet Molly. She’s my in-laws’ miniature dachshund. My in-laws recently got back into riding, and they have been heading out on their bikes quite a lot for both errands and exercise.
If you are a dog owner, I’m sure this is obvious, but Molly does not approve of being left out of the fun. And when Molly is not happy, she has been known to eat her weight in chocolate cake or banana bread or anything else left in a seemingly inaccessible area of the kitchen to a dog with three-inch long legs. So Molly is clearly not a dog to be messed with. Good thing the Sleepypod Sidekick & Air came to the rescue!
The Sidekick is a bike rack designed for the front of a bike. It’s a simple, attractive, stainless steel rack that mounts to the two front fork eyelets, as well as the center brake bolt, which provides a great deal of stability.
The rack itself weighs 1.8 pounds, can carry up to 45 pounds, and fits 26″, 27″, 650B, and 700C wheeled bikes. It was quite easy to mount, although I did need to purchase two extra spacers to make it fit on my mother-in-law’s bicycle.
Many bike baskets and pet carriers mount on the handlebars, which can make a bike more difficult to steer, as well as cause instability when the bike is stopped. The Sidekick, however, is simply a traditional front bike rack and can be used with or without a Sleepypod pet carrier.
Generally, front bike racks have less impact on the overall stability of a bicycle — both when in motion and stopped — than handlebar mounted baskets or bags, since the weight is focused above your tire and not swinging around on the handlebars. This is a huge advantage when you are transporting your best little buddy!
I must admit, I was quite impressed with the Sidekick all by itself, but the Sleepypod Air is quite nice, as well.
Sleepypod makes two different pet carriers including the Air and the Atom. The Atom is designed for everyday use, while the Air is designed for airline travel. Both pet carriers can be used on a daily basis and both work with the Sidekick.
Molly and I got the try out the Air, which must seem like a plush fortress for a sub-ten-pound dog like Molly.
The Air is compressible from both sides to better fit under the seat of an airplane, but I didn’t get to try out that feature since I was just using it with the Sidekick.
The bag itself can be folded down easily for storage and pops up quickly for use. The Air can accommodate a dog up to 15 pounds or a cat up to 17.5 pounds. I’m not sure I understand why there is a different weight limit for cats and dogs, especially since I think cats are more likely than dogs to freak out in the bag and attempt escapes worthy of Houdini, and could thus warrant a lower weight limit. But then again, I’m not a cat owner.
The entire top panel of the bag is made from mesh to allow your pet to see out and get plenty of air. On the inside, there is a removable plush liner for ultimate pet comfort. And the plush liner is washable in case your little friend has an accident.
There is also a shortish strap with a clip on the inside that I assumed was a leash for pet security. I honestly felt that this “leash” was a bit short and hesitated to use it.
On the outside, the bag is made from sturdy nylon, and has two zippered pockets on each side. The back zippered pockets can be used to slide the pet carrier over the hand cart of most suitcases.
Before you mount the Air to the Sidekick, I highly recommend that you get a double kickstand, such as the ESGE Double Kickstand. The double kickstand provides a much more stable base for mounting bags on your bike, and when your pet is involved, you will want all the extra stability you can get.
The Air is quite easy to mount to the Sidekick, though I do recommend you check out these useful videos for tutorials. The back zippered pockets of the Air contain two straps with male and female ends that buckle around the shorter of the two metal arches on the back of the Sidekick. The front zippered pocket contains one strap with a female buckle end. The Sidekick comes with two other straps with male buckle ends for mounting the pet carrier to the Sidekick.
My biggest gripe with the product was the lack of information provided on how to use the two straps provided with the Sidekick. Upon reviewing the videos on the Sleepypod website, I was able to determine that the shorter of the two straps is mounted to the small metal triangle on the front of the Sidekick. Then, this can be attached to the strap with the female buckle end inside the Air. However, it would have been nice to have some kind of instruction sheet provided with the product to indicate this. After all, the graphics on the Air instruction card are ridiculously cute, so why shouldn’t there be more cute instruction cards?
The Air also has a handle on the top of the bag for easy moving, as well as a removable padded shoulder strap.
I highly recommend you spend some time introducing your pet to the pet carrier before you try to ride with your pet on the bike. If you are new to riding with a loaded front rack, I also suggest you take some trial runs without your pet to get comfortable. Once you and your pet are adjusted to the new toys, head on out for some trial runs and shorter rides. Molly adjusted quite quickly, but every pet is different.
Overall, I found both the Sidekick and the Air to be well-designed and well-made products. Not only are they fashionable, they are also functional. However, when it comes to pet products, I am not the final judge, of course. For a true assessment of the product, we must turn to Molly. After all, she has to ride in the thing. So Molly, what do you think of the Sidekick and the Air?
I think she approves.
The Sleepypod Air Pet Carrier sells retail for $159.99 US.
The Sidekick Bike Rack sells retail for $124.99 US.